State of Homelessness Report

The 2016 State of Homelessness in America

The State of Homelessness in America 2016 is the sixth in a series of reports charting progress in ending homelessness in the United States. It examines trends in homelessness, populations at risk of homelessness, and homelessness assistance in America.

Homelessness in America

On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness—meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.

  • In total, 33 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) reported decreases in overall homelessness, while 16 states reported increases. The states with decreases in homelessness were concentrated in the South and Midwest.
  • Despite a national decrease in unsheltered homelessness, only 18 states reported decreases in the number of people living in unsheltered locations, including the street, cars and abandoned buildings. The national decrease in unsheltered homelessness was driven in large part by decreases in unsheltered homelessness in Florida, Texas and Georgia.
  • The national rate of homelessness in 2015 fell to 17.7 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population from 18.3 in 2014. The rates in individual states ranged from 111 in the D.C.  to 7 in Mississippi.
  • The rate of veteran homelessness continued its descent of the past several years to 24.8 homeless veterans per 10,000 veterans in the general population. The rates in individual states ranged from 145 in D.C. to 9 in Virginia.
  • The majority of states had decreases in every major subpopulation: family homelessness (33 states and D.C.), chronically homeless individuals (31 states and D.C.) and veteran homelessness (33 states).

The map below shows the percent change in the total homeless population and various subpopulations by state from January 2014 to January 2015.

Populations at Risk of Homelessness

Many poor people are at risk of homelessness. Ultimately, this is because it is hard for them to afford housing. Unemployment, housing cost burden  and living doubled up are indications of this struggle to afford housing. Longitudinal trends and changes from 2013 to 2014 indicate populations at risk of homelessness may be starting to benefit from the economic recovery.

  • In 2014, 7 million people in poor households were doubled up with family and friends, the most common living situation before becoming homeless. This represents the first significant decrease since the Great Recession. Still, the number of people in poor households living doubled up is 52 percent higher now than in 2007, prior to the recession.
  • The number of poor renter households experiencing severe housing cost burden–those households in poverty paying more than 50 percent of their income toward housing–totaled 6.6 million in 2014, increasing 2.1 percent nationally from 2013, with 33 states seeing an increase.
  • From 2013 to 2014, the number of unemployed people fell 16 percent, and the unemployment rate continued its multiyear decline, falling to 6.2 percent in 2014. Every state and D.C. saw decreases in the number of unemployed people.
  • The number of people in poverty (48.2 million) and the poverty rate (15.5 percent) remained relatively steady in 2014. Thirty-two states and D.C. saw a decrease in the number of people in poverty; 18 saw an increase.

The map below shows these trends in poverty, unemployment, housing cost burden and living doubled up as percent change by state from 2013 to 2014.

Homeless Assistance in America

Communities across the country respond to homelessness with a variety of housing and services programs, including emergency shelters, transitional housing, rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing. The HEARTH Act, passed in 2009, placed a greater emphasis on permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing as permanent housing solutions to homelessness.

  • Rapid re-housing capacity grew dramatically for a second year—an increase of 22,529 beds. This represents a 59.6 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 and a 204 percent increase from 2013 to 2015. Thirty-eight states and D.C. increased rapid re-housing capacity from 2014 to 2015.
  • The number of permanent supportive housing beds continued to grow from 2014 to 2015 by 18,930 beds (6.3 percent) to a total of 319,212 beds. Thirty-five states reported increases and 15 states and D.C. reported decreases.
  • Transitional housing capacity continued to decrease nationwide with 40 states and D.C. reducing capacity. Despite the decrease in capacity, utilization of transitional housing was low, with 81.7 percent of beds filled at the time of the point-in-time count. This is the lowest utilization of transitional housing recorded since 2007.

The map below shows percent change by state from 2014 to 2015 in bed capacity in emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, and transitional housing/safe havens.